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February 26, 2015

Brendan Steele


AMANDA HERRINGTON:  We welcome Brendan Steele in with a 4‑under 66, pretty impressive day.  Can you just talk us through your round today?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, kind of we started on 10, playing very tough going out first few holes and hit a lot of good shots right away.  Hit some fairways which is key on 10 and 11 or else you may not even be able to go for the green. 
Kind of the turning point of the round, I was 1‑under after 13 and on 14, I drove it in the water, dropped hit my third shot in the water, dropped again, and was looking at making six or seven double or triple for sure and holed it from 35 yards or something like that.  So only ended up making a bogey, which out here is fine.  You can make bogeys and you're okay.
After that, I just played really nice.  So that was kind of my one big mistake.

Q.  You said it earlier, it seems like what we hear from everyone else, big driving day today.
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, really important.  Obviously you want to be able to control the ball in the wind.  You get some of these holes that are playing so long that if you're not in the fairway, you can't even get there anyway. 
       You get the two par 5s where it's kind of a favorable wind, kind of straight down on 18 and then just off the right on 3.  And if you hit it in the fairway there, I think most of the field can probably get on in two.
So if you're not in the fairway, you're really at a big disadvantage.

Q.  Aside from Idyllwild, when is the last time you played golf in serious wind?
BRENDAN STEELE:  I don't know, we saw a little bit at Torrey and stuff.  But nothing like this.  I've had a few windy days when I was home in the off‑season, but I might stay home, too, if it's windy.  Living in California, if it's windy or rainy, I just stay inside because I know the next day it will be better.  But it's been a little while, for sure.

Q.  Aside from the hole‑out, any other good shots for your round today?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, that was kind of the highlight.  That was kind of the thing that gave us a jump start and got us going the right direction, because I was 1‑under and then looking at going to 1‑ or 2‑over, and all of a sudden you walk away even, you still have the Bear Trap to play, but got through that with three pars and was able to knock it on in two on 18.
So I think that was a big turning point, because if I walk off that hole 2‑over, you know, who knows.  Might have shot 4‑ or 5‑over.  So that was definitely a big deal there.

Q.  Had you played the course before?
BRENDAN STEELE:  This is my fifth time here.  I've been here quite a bit.  I've made the cut every year here, but I've never had really any high finishes.  Being a West Coast guy, I'm still getting used to Florida, and I seem to get better and better every year.
So hopefully this is just a continuation of that and hopefully I've figured something out.

Q.  I know 14 was changed and Jack Nicklaus said that he thought he made it maybe a little harder but not much?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, it was always a hard hole anyway.  I think it's definitely a little bit tougher now.  The green's tougher.  When you hit terrible shots, it's going to be really tough anyway.  I'm sure other guys kind of didn't really have as much trouble with it.
And the way the wind was today, too, it was in off the left, so it's a tough‑‑ that's a tough wind for most players, but I definitely don't like that wind and I don't like it on that shape of a hole.
So just a couple bad shots there.  But that hole is definitely going to be a tough one.  There's not a lot of break on the back nine.  You've maybe got 13 and 18 that you can score on, and past that, you're just trying to keep the ball in front of you and keep it out of the water.

Q.  Did you see this coming?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, I've been playing really well.  I've been playing the best golf of my life over the last few months.  I was really itching to get the season started because I was playing so well.
I had a good result at Humana and then played decent the next couple weeks but didn't strike the ball quite as well, and worked the last couple days with Rick Smith and we got the ball‑striking to come back a little bit.
So the wedge play, chipping and putting has been sharp so we just needed to hit a few more fairways and a few more solid shots and that came today.

Q.  A lot of the guys have talked today about greens being really tough to hit because of the wind.  You talked about it a little.  But you didn't have that same problem.  What was it about you that allowed you to hit so many greens today?
BRENDAN STEELE:  I think good tee shots mostly and then being able just to hit‑‑ if the wind you have to hit solid shots so you obviously want to flight the ball down but the most thing is just to strike it solid and keep it from curving too much.
So when I hit a bad shot it got way off‑line but if I hit a solid shot it was able to cut through the wind.  So driving and playing the right shot into the green and executing some solid strikes on those.
But these crosswinds and into the wind, it just accentuates the curve so much more, you have to be really careful.

Q.  Did you feel you were playing stronger lower shots than other guys you were seeing around the course?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Not necessarily, but maybe just more solid shots today I guess than maybe average for the field.  And was able to make some birdies when I did hit good shots, which I'm sure there's plenty of guys that hit a lot of good shots today but maybe didn't make as many birdies.

Q.  Besides hole 14, what was your hardest hole?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Probably No. 5, par 3.  Pin is right up against the water, into the wind.  I hit it way right.  Hit the cart path.  It was a pretty nasty hole.  I chipped it to like 15 feet and had a chance to make a par but made another bogey there.

Q.  Did you say a minute ago you're playing the best golf of your life?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, I definitely feel like it.  Yeah, week‑in and week‑out.

Q.  My question is, what did you do in the off‑season to be able to say that, and was there anything coming off last year that made work in the off‑season a big priority?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Yeah, it's been a few things.  I don't think I can point directly to one thing but I've got a really good team in place that can help me with kind of all facets of my game.
So work with Rick Smith on my swing, I work with Chris Mason on my putting who is down in San Diego.  So we have worked really hard on the transition to short putter in June last year.
I've got a fitness guy, Brad Davidson at home, and a sports chiro, Jason Amsted (ph), so I have all these guys that have been in place now for a couple years, so I'm not changing, doing new things.  Everything is in place and I can work the right way.
Also, it's my second year with Bobby Brown on the bag and he's been really helpful with everything.  He came out a couple weeks before Humana and ran me through some really intense practice sessions to sharpen up wedge play, chipping, all the stuff that you don't really want to practice on your own, and the things that I need the most help with.  When he's out there, I get the best practice that I can get in.
So I was swinging it really nice, putting it really good.  He comes in, helps me with the wedge play and chipping and all of a sudden we have got all the pieces together.  So it's just trying to get in there every week and trying to go through the right process when you're out there.

Q.  Bobby and intense, I don't picture that.
BRENDAN STEELE:  Bobby is relaxed but he's so excited about the game and he's so into making me better that he's down to come out and make sure that I stay on task.  He runs me through putting drills and chipping drills and wedges.  He's like okay, we're going to hit 6‑over to 83 and you want you to hit low ones to the 60 and here and there and wherever and things I just wouldn't do on my own.  He might go through a hundred balls in the bunker, and I'll be like, "A hundred? Great; I was going to hit five and go in and have lunch.”  (laughing)

Q.  The last two winners have been under the radar guys, Henley and Thompson, does this course lend itself to being a more wide open field?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Who won before that?

Q.  Rory.
BRENDAN STEELE:  I don't think so.  I don't think anymore so than anywhere else.  Rory has won here, Tiger has won here, isn't he.  I'm sure he's won here‑‑ no?  Okay.  Well you've got some world‑class players that have won, as well.  Michael Thompson and Russell Henley may be under the radar to most people, but not to people that are around them every day.  They are really great players.
So I think it's just one of those things where the TOUR is so deep these days, that you get guys on the right week and they are going to win the tournament.

Q.  On your transition to short, what was the transition?  Curious how it might have compared with Webb breaking his over his knee and Ernie and some of the other guys making the switch.  What did you do?
BRENDAN STEELE:  So last year, I was pretty secure with my card for the year but I wasn't high enough on the FedExCup that I felt like I needed to keep doing what I was doing.  I went through a phase where I wasn't putting well in the middle of the year.
So I was going out on a three‑week trip.  I worked a couple days with Chris Mason at home, and he was like, “This looks really good, you should go put it in.  Go put it in for three weeks and just try to get better every day with it and don't worry about if you miss a putt here or there or whatever.  You're just trying to get better every day.”
I went out and shot 62 with it the first round and finished fifth that week, fifth the next week and then it was ingrained.  It was here to stay because I had had some good results.
Then if you have a bad week, it's the same as with the other one because you've had bad weeks with the other one, too.  It was actually way easier than I thought it have been, and worked out for me really well.

Q.  And to make it easy on me, what was that stretch?
BRENDAN STEELE:  That was Travelers and Quicken Loans, those two, Congressional.  So I was pretty mad at the USGA and now I owe them a thank‑you card I guess.  (Laughter).

Q.  So it was pretty much cold turkey?
BRENDAN STEELE:  Completely.  I needed some bad putting with the belly putter‑‑ I played the U.S. Open qualifier and I putted so bad that I was just like, I wanted to throw it in the weeds.  So I went home and picked that one up and it just felt way better.  My speed is way better, my touch is way better.  And working with Chris on my fundamentals, making sure setup is square, path is square and after that, you're just trying to roll it down your line.  Make it a little more simple.

Q.  Where is the belly putter?
BRENDAN STEELE:  It's in my garage.  It's in my garage.

Q.  Have you touched it lately?  Have you put your hands on it lately?
BRENDAN STEELE:  No, not since‑‑ not since June of last year not for eight months.

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